People Will Still Pay For Content

The Score Hockey MagazineEvery August or September, I buy one to three hockey pool magazines. These feature in-depth previews and predictions about the year to come, ostensibly compiled by experts. As magazines go, they’re fairly hefty and not cheap. I paid $10 for the Score’s Sports Forecaster, which runs to 162 pages.

There are four or five publications that come out, all more or less covering the same ground. I usually read The Score’s because there’s the most analysis on individual players. These magazines have a peculiarity–each city or region gets its own cover. This no doubt makes the hometown buyer feel good about seeing a familiar face (or eyes in the case of my issue–a masked Luongo is on the cover).

It must be a considerable undertaking to assemble one of these magazines. There’s probably 900 players to report on (NHLers plus prospects) and 30 teams, plus a huge schwack of statistics to massage and display accurately. It’s really a big technical writing job, with a little hockey insight thrown in. There’s a good newspaper feature in visiting one of these publishers to report on how the process works.

Few Ads in Sight

Here’s the shocking thing about these magazines: they hardly have any ads. The Score’s edition has just seven full page ads for non-Score properties, from four companies. Any Cosmo reader will tell you that the average ratio of ads to editorial is more like, what, 60-40? 70-30?

The hockey magazines are, like a few others (National Geographic? What else?), about selling content and not about selling you ads wrapped around a few articles. This despite the fact that one can find all of the stats and most (if not more) of the analysis online.

Hockey magazines seem to fly in the face of contemporary attitudes about publishing. Of course, they could be on their last legs, financially, but they don’t seem to be.

This reminds me of what I recently read (and wrote) about Consumer Reports. They have three million paying online subscribers, and don’t rely on ad revenue.

The lesson? There’s still hope for curators and creators of really useful content.


  1. I just read an interesting series that sort of dealt with what you are talking about. I’ve always felt that the advertising revenue model is on shaky ground, and that businesses that rely primarily on advertising will be in trouble some day. I would rather develop a product that was useful enough to be worth charging for than to rest my hopes on generating ad revenue with some time of shoddy free product.

    In terms of that series, that were basically saying that people generally won’t pay for arbitrary content, but most are willing to pay for customized content. The cover of your magazine, for example, shows that they are willing to cater to individual regions at least. Do you think you would be willing to pay more if they had additional stats that you (just you) would find interesting, or perhaps more focus on certain teams that you like, and less on others?

  2. Duane: I’d probably pay more, full stop. It’s a once (or thrice) a year purchase, so I’m surprised that the price hasn’t increased more over the years. I’d definitely pay a premium for an extra 15 pages of analysis of teams in the Canucks division.

  3. You make an interesting comparison between The Score’s Sports Forecaster and Consumer Reports. These are not typical ‘content publications’. They are content aggregators with a very high level of reputation.

    Perhaps that’s why you pay?

  4. Ok, that’s what I thought. I think that’s where content is headed — more customization and less arbitrary content that attempts to cater to the general masses.

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